Voice search, user intent, customer-focused optimization, mobile SEO, featured snippets and structured data markup, Google’s Rank Zero, brand building, blue links—all of these are techniques that small businesses have had to grapple with in the last few years.
But with the pandemic in full swing, the landscape has fundamentally shifted. Your target audience, their needs, and their search intent—everything has changed. And alongside, SEO strategies must change as well—if you want to keep your small business competitive in the COVID-19 era, that is.
Businesses Need to Adapt
SEO strategies aren’t—and shouldn’t be—static; they need to change with the times. And although SEO trends changealmost every year, a global pandemic calls for a more fundamental shift.
Although some businesses have re-opened and life is slowly picking up again in most parts of the world, the threat is far from over.
Only recently, the U.S. saw its single largest hike in COVID cases—more than 47,000 in a single day. Business leaders have already pushed for lockdown extensions—but those business leaders have established empires. Small businesses have it harder.
Small Businesses Have Been Hit the Hardest
Small business owners have been struggling tore-open. For one, not every small business was able to procure the federally backed loans that were promised. Moreover, they’ve been hardest hit by the pandemic. Certain businesses have had it even worse—such as black-owned small businesses. And despite plans to re-open, these ventures are still vulnerable, owing to their relatively diminutive stature.
According to Reuters, the cause behind this is a lack of cash reserves and little borrowing power. One of the factors they mention is how small businesses are not designed for monthly recurring revenues. Aid and loans are a particularly tricky area for small businesses, and even add to their woes—because repayments are huge hurdles.
While small businesses can definitely take this as an opportunity to build better models—such as moving toward recurring monthly revenue streams—now is the time to brainstorm a smart re-opening strategy. As a small business, your major concerns should be:
- Cutting costs where possible, and concentrating your funds where they matter—such as in the fulfillment of KPIs and generating revenue
- Aggressive marketing and advertising—targeting local areas and the right audience
- Ensuring your audience doesn’t move toward rival businesses
Fortunately, SEO strategies help you do just that—but your approach to SEO, post-pandemic, must differ from the standard keyword-backlinking-lead tactics. As has been mentioned, the need to adapt has never been greater.
Understanding Mass Demand and Delivering via SEO
The way ahead for businesses involves:
- Identifying your target audience to cut down on unnecessary advertising to people who might not want your products
- Understanding what this target audience wants through a streamlined, focused observation of consumer behavior
- Reaching out to this target audience
- Delivering to and retaining this target audience
- Maintaining your digital presence to ensure you have a cemented position in people’s collective consciousness—target audience or not
It’s important to understand that Google (and other SERPs) have been moving in the same direction in recent times. SERPs and leading SEO strategies are more customer-centric than ever, and take a customized approach. Google updates such as BERT are aimed at the same thing: working out customer/searcher intent through language analysis and delivering tailor-made results.
Your small business SEO strategy should revolve around the same tenets. Some of the tactics you can adopt are discussed below—but these aren’t the be-all and end-all of small business SEO. The more you innovate, the greater your chances of standing out among the crowd.
Target the Right Audience Through Social Media
We’re sure that you already have social media pages and/or social media marketing campaigns ready. But during the pandemic, you need to amplify these activities even further: increase engagement and solidify your presence on social media. By targeting the right keywords (or hashtags, or categories, depending on the social media channel you’re using), you can reach out to a large pool of people—many of them being just the audience you need.
Social media websites such as Facebook serve customized ads to users. By now, even users have realized that Facebook is “listening” to them—in other words, its algorithm has evolved to identify what people are talking about or are actively searching for. For instance, if a person in downtown Chicago talks about a plumbing issue in one of their posts, they might get an ad on their timeline presenting a solution: an ad for a plumbing service provider in downtown Chicago.
Your post-pandemic social media SEO strategy needs to focus on:
- Increasing engagement by posting more, responding to comments, messages, and reviews, etc.
- Targeting the right keywords
- Observing consumer likes and dislikes and customer engagement on your posts
You can also opt for paid ads on Facebook, but if you’re running low on funds—as many small businesses are—this can be put on hold in the short-term.
Improve Your Website
Since every on-ground business has an online counterpart now—from university classes to ordering all kinds of items—the pandemic is the perfect opportunity for you to improve your digital presence.
Whether you hire an SEO service provider for small businesses or have an in-house SEO expert doing it for you, your website is everything. Whether via ads or targeted Google results, potential customers will end up on your website. If this website is:
- Difficult to navigate
- Useless in terms of offering information
- Badly designed, or
you might end up losing customers. Bear in mind that every rival business is doing the same thing online. If your viewers aren’t satisfied with what you’re presenting to them, it’s likely that they’ll jump off to a different service provider—and you’ll jump a few places up in your bounce rate.
Get someone to troubleshoot what’s wrong (if there’s something wrong) with your website. Conduct an SEO audit. Streamline your website and make it easier to use. The more relief you can provide to people in these times, the better your SEO strategy—better for business and long-term customer retention. And don’t forget to optimize for mobile devices!